Updated on 24/04/2020
If you want to make or update your Will, the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has brought a number of extra difficulties and considerations to think about.
Our lawyers have answered some of the most common questions our clients are asking to help. You can also find out more about making a Will in our Wills Guide.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, contact us online or call 0370 1500 100 to speak to a member of our team.
Can I make a valid Will at this time?
Yes, it’s absolutely possible. There are some practical issues that you need to consider carefully, but our legal experts are ready to help and guide you.
Firstly, you can contact us about your will via phone, email, or video call so you’re not reliant on postal services that are currently overstretched.
One potential issue you could face is finding witnesses so you can execute your Will validly.
Currently, you must sign your Will physically with a pen (not electronically), in front of two independent witnesses. The witnesses must also sign the same document, all being present together at the same time.
You might be self-isolating with the same people who will benefit from your Will. Those people can’t act as witnesses, and their partners or other family members can’t either.
It’s also important to bear in mind the potential health risks of passing paper between unconnected individuals. Experts believe that the virus can survive on paper for up to 12 hours.
Everyone is in a different situation and we’re giving detailed guidance on how to effectively sign a Will. If you’re having particular difficulty, we’re happy to guide you through it on the phone.
Read more about how we can help you make a Will
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What should I do if I can’t make a Will at the moment because I can’t get witnesses?
If you die without a Will, then the Intestacy Rules set out what will happen to your assets and who can act to administer them. If you have an unmarried partner, these rules won’t provide for them. If you die without a partner or children, your estate may end up with your parents.
Read more about the Intestacy Rules
Your loved ones may to agree to redirect their inheritance after your death if they agree that the Intestacy Rules have distributed your estate unfairly. However, disputes often arise when people die without leaving a will.
We’ll try to help you find a practical solution to safely comply with the law and make a valid Will. If this isn’t possible, we’ll discuss alternative options to help make your wishes clear and support a voluntary redirection of your assets.
We can also help your loved ones resolve any disputes about your estate – read more about contesting probate when there isn’t a Will
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Yes you can, but there are some practical challenges to making LPAs during the coronavirus pandemic.
To make an LPA, you need someone to witness your and your attorney’s signatures on the document. The witness needs to be an independent person who’s physically with you when you sign - you can’t witness a signature over a video call.
Helpfully, if there is more than one attorney and they happen to live together, they can witness each other’s
signatures. However, attorneys can’t witness the signature of the person making the LPA.
You also need someone to certify that you’re mental capable of making such a decision. This must be someone who has known you for more than two years, or a professional such as a doctor or solicitor.
The document has to be signed by all of these people in a particular order. This may delay the set-up if you’re posting the document between each other.
Registering an LPA usually takes 8 weeks, but we expect that there will be delays during the coronavirus pandemic.
Read more about setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney
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What if someone who is very ill or has dementia wants to make a Will?
To make a Will, someone must have testamentary capacity, which means they can understand:
- what a Will is and the effects it’ll have
- The extent of the property in their own estate
- The interests of people who might expect to inherit something from them.
Someone living with dementia may not pass aspects of this test.
The coronavirus lockdown makes it particularly different for vulnerable people to make a Will. It’s harder to properly assess capacity by phone or video conference, or to get an assessment from a medical professional.
You can apply to the Court of Protection to make a statutory Will for someone who can’t make their own Will. However, this still requires a detailed medical certificate confirming their lack of capacity. Delays also mean that the Court is prioritising statutory Wills only for people near the end of their life.
If you have a friend or family member with dementia or needs extra help making their Will for any reason, get in touch today. Our specialists can talk you through the practical issues and help reach you reach the best solution.
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Am I too young to make a Will? What if I don’t have any assets to leave to anyone?
Anyone over the age of 18 can and should make a will. That’s true even in this current situation.
A Will doesn’t just affect what happens to your assets when you die, but also lets you decide who will be able to look after any young children you have. It’s particularly important if you have children from an earlier relationship, so you can make sure that all members of your family are provided for.
If you get a Will in place early in life, you can update it as many times as necessary throughout life. These updates can take account of your changing financial circumstances and any changes to your family.
When we discuss your Wills, we’ll ask for some general information about your personal and business arrangements to make sure your Will covers everything. It also helps us highlight any forgotten tasks, such as nominating someone to receive life assurance and pension payments.
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I already have a Will. Do I need to consider making a new one?
Anyone with a Will should reconsider whether it still meets their needs and wishes every 3-5 years. However, you should also review your Will if:
- Your relationships change – marriage, civil partnerships, divorce, separation, and new children can all affect your Will
- A named beneficiary dies – your Will may adapt to pass their share to someone else, but you need to check that this is still what you want
- A beneficiary’s situation change – does anyone need more protection than you provide in your current Will?
- Your assets or their value change – this could affect your inheritance tax liability, the payment of any debts, and whether or not fixed sums in your current Will are still suitable.
If you’re unsure about any of these issues, we can help. For example, we can help structure your estate to make sure that you don’t pay any more inheritance tax than necessary - find out more about estate planning
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I own a share in a business – what happens if one of the other shareholders dies?
If you have an interest in a business, we strongly advise that you contact us about the existing arrangements in place.
We can review your partnership agreements and shareholder agreements as well as checking company memoranda and articles to find out what will happen if a shareholder dies. We’ll also check whether there are any limits on share ownership that may stop you passing on your shares to your loved ones.
We’ll make sure redraft and existing documents to make sure that inheritance tax doesn’t cause any practical difficulty for your business. We can also prepare your Will so it aligns with the existing agreements for your business.
You should also consider some practical issues:
- Is it worth appointing specific executors to deal with your business assets, separate from the family members who will deal with your personal assets?
- Do you have life assurance associated with your business interests?
- Can your co-owners to buy your business interest from your estate if they need to?
Disputes can often arise when a Will distributes interests in a family business, particular if some family members get more than others. Does your Will account for this and are your family members aware of what is likely to happen?
Learn more about wills for business owners
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Can my Will deal with properties abroad? Are there other ways to secure my assets abroad?
Broadly speaking, it is possible to have an English or Welsh Will that applies to ‘worldwide assets’. This can cover property abroad such as holiday homes, investments and bank accounts.
However, some foreign countries don’t recognise these Wills, particularly if they contain trust arrangements, such as general provision for children under 18. This could mean that foreign assets don’t pass how you’d like them to and may mean your estate pays more tax.
Everyone’s situation is different, so we’ll review your situation and advise if you need any extra arrangements.
If you own assets in England but aren’t domiciled here, we’d advise making an English Will to make probate quicker and easier for your loved ones.
England may also accept a foreign Will in some cases and this may make things easier depending on your situation – contact us and we can advise if this is the case.
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